For me higher education is about working towards achieving your potential to catapult you into the next phase of your working life, whether that is straight from school, progressing through work or changing careers.
The question I ask my self is: are the words aspiration and ambition dirty words that we should be ashamed of or thoughts and feelings to be cherished and cultivated?
When I was a kid, it was drummed into me to do well at school and get a job! But is that how life really is? Do you just leave school and get a job and that’s you for life?
What if you don’t do well in school or the path you take is not for you?
At university, there are young people straight out of school with their lives ahead of them. Chances are they have not had much life experience outside of the school environment, facing hardships and struggles or the joys of family life and the gifts of experience offered by the wider world!
I have been down a path that, when I left school, I thought was for me, a brilliant engineering career right in front of my eyes, ready for the taking. Without much notice, it was gone in a heartbeat. However, when one door closes another opens! My initial career went down the pan and I was down for the count – 10, 9 ,8, 7, 6, 5 – but not out!
I began a new journey down a path in healthcare with my first job as a trainee Clinical Support Worker within a hospital. I began a family having three wonderful children and plodded along spending five years in my first job, then I became a single parent and again the path began to diverge. I was also lucky enough to get a job within the NHS promoting healthy eating and oral health in school and nurseries – an ideal 9am to 2.30pm term time job!
After a few years, life once more moved on and I met someone new and got remarried and became a happily married father of four wonderful children.
The point is, life is not linear; you don’t go on a journey through life without bumps and forks in the road. These bumps and forks make you stronger, shape your views and develop your character.
Aspiration and ambition should be cherished and cultivated. As a parent, my aspirations for my children know no bounds and I will encourage them to grow their ambitions. The trick is, I suppose, to be realistic and not diminish your goals and ambitions, but plan and work towards them. It has taken me ten years to reach this point and it will take me a further four years of University from start to finish to achieve my goal to become a dietician.
Just because I have come the long way around doesn’t hinder me as a student; ask the lecturers, it makes me a better student! Mature students have a different view on life and apply themselves in different ways. The experience of being a young person away from home for maybe the first time means young students want to enjoy themselves and at times may be distracted simply for the reason they are there. On the other hand, as a mature student, I know why I am there, I’ve given up my full time job with the paid summer holidays and I have four mouths to feed, bills to pay and I understand the consequences of not paying these bills! It’s scary and may have slowed down my confidence in applying to University. However, I took a gamble and while the realities of life are still there, I have survived my first year.
If higher education is for you and you are determined, you can achieve your goal. You may have to attend an access class or go through college taking part in an HND, but whatever path you take, enjoy the journey and before you know it you will reach that goal.
Learning is not just for kids. Learning is lifelong and should be embraced by everyone. It will make you a better person and society a better place!